Action Alert: West Virginia Reptile Ban

UPDATE: Thanks to an outpouring of opposition and education, the WV DWA Board has withdrawn the proposed amendments to the State's Dangerous Wild Animals Act from consideration. Thank you to all of those who supported our efforts to stop these additions to the State's Dangerous Wild Animal list.

The West Virginia Dangerous Wild Animal (DWA) Board has released its plan to ban many species of reptiles. We are early in the process but opposition needs to begin now. Please note that is not a state bill (yet) which is why it does not have a bill number. The proposal must go through the DWA Board before making its way through the legislature. Stop it now at this early stage.

The below species will be listed as DWA's in West Virginia. That means no future ownership, and mandatory registration of current animals, compliance with ZAA caging standards (which are designed for public exhibition) and expensive liability insurance coverage for any grandfathered animals. Essentially, this should be considered a ban on all of these species:

1. constrictor snakes greater than six feet;
2. ALL venomous snakes;
3. ALL crocodilians;
4. monitor lizards greater than four feet;
5. venomous lizards.

What a DWA listing means:

  1. registration of current animals;
  2. $150 annual permit fee PER ANIMAL, as well as $10 annual application fee;
  3. compliance with Zoological Association of America caging standards (which are designed for public exhibition, not private ownership);
  4. maintain a $300,000 liability insurance policy (additional annual cost);
  5. ban on future ownership;
  6. only animals owned before the effective date can be kept (no additional animals in the future);
  7. complete the application found at
  8. no breeding of listed species;
  9. microchip or apply "legible tattoo" to all registered animals;
  10. no public contact (meaning no educational outreach programs);

This proposal is utterly arbitrary. There is absolutely no science to support these amendments.

If you missed it, owning two boa constrictors for 10 years would cost you over $3,000 just for state fees. If you own five reptiles on the list, that is over $7,500 for state fee costs to legally keep those animals for 10 years. Additionally, you must maintain an expensive liability insurance policy specifically for keeping these animals (not a homeowner's policy). The caging standards are also inconceivable for private keepers and were written for zoological institutions which display these animals publicly.

Legislators decided not to ban these species when the DWA law passed in 2014. All of these species were originally considered but USARK worked to educate legislators, as well as inform them of due process violations. We also wrote and had the amendment introduced on the floor during the last hours of the legislative session which removed crocodilians and venomous snakes. Richard Stanley spearheaded the WV efforts and USARK was successful in protecting responsible herpetoculturists, including stopping a ban on all animals non-native to West Virginia. Now we must fight again.

It is unfortunate to see this after all of the work USARK did in 2014 and 2015. USARK works to protect those who are responsible and it is beyond frustrating to see all of our hard work erased by those who are irresponsible. USARK cannot state loudly enough that we work to protect responsible herpetoculturists and we do not condone the actions of those acting otherwise.

You can read the proposal at

What to do
Remember to be professional and civil at all times.

Contact the WV DWA Board immediately! The deadline to comment is 12:00 (noon) July 22.

Mail letters to:

West Virginia Department of Agriculture
c/o Madison Birchfield
1900 Kanawha Blvd. East
Charleston, WV 25305

Send emails to: REMOVED

DWA Board members:


Talking Points

  1. West Virginia legislators voted against listing these species in 2015.
  2. The research and rationale against listing these species were already presented and agreed upon in 2015.
  3. The lengths for constrictor snakes and monitor lizards are arbitrary and capricious, lacking any logic or scientific support.
  4. Legislators already decided that a ban on these was a bad idea, and that still holds true.
  5. Contrary to any claims of a "grandfather clause," this is a ban and not common-sense regulation.
  6. The permit fees associated with this ban are absurd and atrocious.
  7. The reptile species to be added cannot be considered threats when responsibly maintained and housed.
  8. A ban on these species is unjust and overreaching.
  9. Collective punishment is an unconstitutional form of government.
  10. Laws should punish irresponsible people and criminals, not responsible citizens.
  11. Bans lead to unintended consequences including animal releases and black markets.

Sample Letter
(please personalize and edit)

Dear West Virginia Dangerous Wild Animal Board,

I oppose the addition of several reptile species to the State's Dangerous Wild Animal list as a responsible reptile keeper and West Virginia resident. This proposal is not scientifically sound and is not supported by any legitimate statistics. Additionally, it is utterly arbitrary and capricious. This is either a personal attack upon reptile keepers or an overreaching measure to penalize irresponsible keepers by punishing everyone who keeps these reptiles, including responsible citizens.

Reptiles are kept in at least 5% of U.S. households as found by several national studies, so this proposal will affect many West Virginians. A previous proposal to add these reptiles to the State's Dangerous Wild Animal List was struck down by state legislators. They made the educated decision then, and now this unjust proposal has resurfaced. I expect you to only support measures which are backed by legitimate science and sound logic. My tax dollars are paying for this nonsense and I will do all I can to stop it.

Please accept that this proposal is an illogical action and should be stopped now. Do not add any reptile species to the state Dangerous Wild Animal list. Please research the history of this law and you will clearly see the species list does not need to be amended. Thank you for your time and understanding.


[consider adding city and state if WV residents]

Article written by USARK